Ah our youth, where is it now? School life was an indispensible part of it, and watching TV shows or cartoons related to teenage angst and heartbreak certainly hits a sweet spot for many people who miss those carefree days. While anime industry is incredible on many, many levels, it does amaze me that every few months tons of new series emerge and at least a dozen of those is always centered around students and teachers. They might belong to different genres, but the overall ‘the story takes place on the school grounds’ premise is there. I’ve watched a great number of those shows – some of them were amazing – some of them not so much, but here’s 20 titles any anime fan should check out.
20 – Gakuen Alice – (26 episodes) a show aimed at younger audiences, Gakuen Alice delivers a clever and oftentimes touching look on the lives and relationships between kids, with an overarching supernatural theme. Early 2000s animation which may feel a bit dated for those who care about it.
19 – Angel Densetsu – (2 episodes OVA) only the beginning of the manga was adapted so I can’t put this anime any higher. It’s an older one, dating back to good old delinquent stories. Never judge the book by its cover – though our protagonist’s appearance of Satan’s son involuntarily make you draw conclusions, which may not be true. I was crying from laughter watching this show.
18 – Hana Yori Dango (Boys Over Flowers) – (51 episodes) a hit shoujo manga about a poor girl thrown into the world of the crazy-ass rich jerks, which spawned a hit anime, Japanese TV drama, Korean remake, Taiwanese remake, and 2 movies… Is it good? Even though the storyline may drive you insane like a South American soap opera with all the ridiculous plot twists, the characters actually grow over the course of the series and the majority of them is very likable as you know where their faults come from.
17 – Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuuutsu (Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya) – (14 episodes) I remember the hype surrounding this anime when it first aired and all the admiration the show got. While I don’t quite get the phenomenon behind huge popularity of this anime, it was a quirky show nonetheless. Espers, aliens, gods, time travelers, and fuckin’ Kyon. I still see Mikuru Asahina when I hear ‘moe’.
16 – Toaru Majutsu no Index/ Toaru Majutsu no Index II – (24+24 episodes) Academy City becomes the ground for war between espers and magicians and the everyday normal(?) guy Kamijou Touma with a power to negate other powers ends up in the middle of it all. Main arc will keep you on the edge of your seat (badass Accelerator), the side-stories made me drowsy at times.
15 – Sakigake!! Cromartie Koukou (Cromartie High School) – (26 episodes , 10-minute-long) Mechazawa, a gorilla, a Freddie Mercury lookalike… this anime is a true oddball and I’d describe it as an animated Japanese version of Monty Python’s Flying Circus. It’s an absurdist gag comedy at its finest, so looking for a plot in it is a futile endeavor.
14 – Kaichou wa Maid-sama! (Class President is a Maid!) – (26 episodes) how a capable female student council president has to work part-time at a maid café but this one hot guy learns her secret and she’s forced to interact with him. Contrary to most shows, Kaichou wa Maid-sama! establishes a strong girl lead (it eventually comes crumbling down as usual) and the dude actually has to make an effort to win her affection. The anime is hilarious, but it does have some dull moments, because at some point you get annoyed by the oblivious nature of the female character. ‘Why is my heart beating so fast when he’s around? ‘What is this feeling in my chest?’… It’s fucking myocardial infarction. Duh.
13 – Hachimitsu to Clover (Honey and Clover, S1 and 2) – (24+12 episodes) a tale about entering the world of adulthood and maturing emotionally from the perspective of a group of college students. It’s an anime take on a coming-of-age genre – thought-provoking and rewarding in the end.
12 – Sakamichi no Apollon (Kids on the Slope, Appolo on the Slope) – (12 episodes) compelling story of friendships and first loves set in the jazzy 1960s. After Nodame Cantabile, probably some of the best depictions of music performances in anime. Realism, music and overall mature tone make Sakamichi no Appolon such a memorable series. K-ON rubbish has nothing on it.
11 – Kimi ni Todoke (From Me to You, S1 and 2) – (25+12 episodes) how the average girl’s school life looks like. KnT excels in depicting the little heart-warming moments – for some people stuff like making friends comes effortlessly, for the others building and maintaining relationships is a very complicated process, and it kinda reminds of those few shy people from your school days and how they might have felt like.
10 – Jigoku Sensei Nube (Hell Teacher Nube) – (49 episodes) anime about a teacher who fights with demons and protects his pupils. While the show largely had the monster-of-the-week formula (It did give me a chuckle or a scare on many occasions), the anime thrives in few longer story arcs which really explore characters’ depth.
9 – Danshi Koukousei no Nichijou (Daily Lives of High School Boys) – (12 episodes) the dudes’ shot at the slice of life genre, mostly associated with groups of girl friends (e.g. Azumanga Daioh, Nichijou or Lucky Star). Man, it works, and I’m surprised no one came up with the idea sooner. Guys, and especially high schoolers, tend to be inconsiderate jerks, they like to be show-offs… not to mention all the absurd conversations they love to indulge in. The creators of this anime know it all too well, and even spoof their own idea by writing in a segment entitled Daily Lives of High School Girls. Brilliant.
8 – Seto no Hanayome – (26 episodes) that was a wild ride. A mermaid daughter of an underwater yakuza clan ends up in a classic ‘contract relationship’ with a human boy who’s surprisingly resilient to physical injuries. Main characters are joined by such outlandish individuals like gym teacher Shark Fujishiro, yakuza consigliere Masa-san (everyone has a crush on him) or Luna’s dad aka Terminator. Fast-paced rom-com with a happy ending in sight.
7 – Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei/ Zoku Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei/ Goku Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei/ Zan Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei – (12+13+3+13 episodes) writing this list has left me in despair. Itoshiki Nozomu is such a great anime character. Despite his claims he’s not as miserable and disturbed as he thinks he is – some of his students though… That’s a whole different matter, as they display much more worrisome behavior. This pessimistic social and cultural satire will have you in stitches half of the time – you will spend the other half on stopping the episode to google all kinds of real-life references the show makes (it happens a lot).
6 – Ouran Koukou Host Club (Ouran High School Host Club) – (26 episodes) not gonna lie, as a guy who trusts in bacon and chopping wood, I was initially uneasy about watching a show with a bunch of flamboyant bishōnen and a cross-dressing girl. Glad I’ve taken the risk, because the anime cleverly develops its characters through engaging plot and uproariously funny gags.
5 – School Rumble /School Rumble OVA /School Rumble Ni Gakki – (26+2+26 episodes) the game of misunderstandings is ON. It’s exhilarating as a comedy show. The romantic bits will drive you nuts. But heck, I’m not even mad because of the open-ending. However, writing this paragraph made me remember how absolutely I hated the main female lead and her love interest. Everything else about the show rocked.
4 – Lucky Star – (24 episodes) my first attempt at watching this failed during the first scene, a discussion about ways of eating choco cornets. A year or two later, I binge watched the whole series over few days and I fell in love. Lucky Star is a monster of the slice of life genre which only the chosen ones can thoroughly enjoy I guess. By including an anime otaku character, the series lampshades several anime and culture tropes. The studio panel, karaoke singing and the shop employees add the spice and different perspectives to the picture.
3 – Clannad / Clannad: After Story – (24+23 episodes) the ultimate KyoAni production, which polished all the rough edges animes like Air or Kanon had, bringing this type of dreamy storytelling to perfection. Strikingly beautiful visually, it sucks you in emotionally.
2 – Great Teacher Onizuka – (43 episodes) a real classic. Both laugh-out-loud and manly tears of admiration for heroic feats were spilled in large amounts. I regret that the manga wasn’t finished at the time the anime aired, as the cartoon ending is pale compared to its drawn counterpart. Nonetheless, it captured the spirit of Onizuka and the gang perfectly.
1 – Full Metal Panic/ Full Metal Panic Fumoffu? / Full Metal Panic! The Second Raid – (24+12+13 episodes) although the original FMP! run back in 2002 and many of the modern day anime nerds never heard of it, it remains my favorite school life-themed franchise to this day. While FMP! and FMP! TSR intertwine student antics with secret organizations, terrorists and mechas, the Fumoffu series include some of the most hilarious moments of anime ever aired.